I’m not making this up. Apparently, at least in Wisconsin, women can rack up some pretty big bucks just for taking care of their own kids and occasionally those of their friends and relatives. Here‘s an article about four sisters who basically just traded off care of each others’ children and, over the course of three years, banked $540,000 in taxpayer money (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/25/09). And it’s all perfectly legal. I wonder what would happen if some guys got together and tried to play that angle.
Truly though, this is the brave new world. I’ve argued before that women need to give up power over children if they are ever to gain power in the workplace. It seems obvious to me that men and women are in this life together and that the more one does towards childcare, the less he/she will do at the plant or office. There’s a tradeoff between a parent’s involvement with baby and his/her involvement with work, and relevant statistics bear that out. As I say, I’ve argued the point before and I’ll argue it again.
But here’s where I could be wrong. If a third party comes along and takes Dad’s rightful place with his child, maybe women can have it all. If, instead of promoting greater father involvement with children we substitute daycare, maybe women can have the kids and the money.
But who might that third party be? The government of course. If we can just get enough taxpayer money for subsidized daycare, then Mom can go to work, come home to baby who’s been at daycare all day and have nothing whatsoever to do with Dad. If the only cost to society is billions of taxpayer dollars, fathers separated from kids and kids growing up without fathers, then surely, as Madeline Albright once said of thousands of dead Iraqis, it’s “worth the cost.” That makes sense, doesn’t it?
I’ve long suspected that that’s what a lot of the anti-father crowd is angling for, and certainly there are plenty of calls for ever-increasing levels of government-subsidized daycare. Not coincidentally, those calls are coming at a time when courts and legislatures are doing everything they can to separate fathers from children, and 38.5% of children are born out-of-wedlock. If we assume that what we’re doing is what we intend to do, maybe my paranoid fantasy isn’t so fantastic after all.
So possibly it’s more accurate to see this Wisconsin case, not as a mistake but as a kind of pilot program for the brave new world to come.